Steve Martin writes musicals?
Yes. Steve Martin wrote a musical called Bright Star, it’s set in various locations in North Carolina in 1923 and 1946 and has a score “inspired by” Bluegrass. In the concert version of Bright Star you can see him onstage picking away on the banjo. Bright Star is a high school favorite.
Those are high schoolers in those photos. The “creative team”, what this theater calls anyone not performing, are high schoolers as well. I don’t know if the head costume designer is always a student, but in this production an 18 year old gets the credit. You should be impressed with her work. I am. I will explain the two big deal resources that made costumes of that quality possible for a group of high schoolers - but don’t let that explanation take away any of the shine. Well-resourced or not, that high schooler did a great job.
I am cheating a little. That production was from PlayMakers Rep’s Summer Youth Conservatory. So, those kids did not have to pass Chemistry or study for AP American History. They had no papers to write or basketball tournaments to travel to. I recently learned that ‘conservatory’ implies that you are really just studying one subject. Occasionally heads of college theater departments will sigh in sadness that they are not a “conservatory program” i.e. they have so much competition for students’ time. These students were doing only this for six weeks in the summer. Even professionals don’t get to focus like that.
This conservatory costs $675 per 2-week class; $800 to work four 40 hour weeks in the shops, or $1,750 to act in the show. I wonder how the actors feel about paying more than twice as much as the tech folks. If you are shocked that anyone is paying at all to work….welcome to theater! The vast vast vast majority of theater workers have “paid-to-play” for some or most of their careers. Tickets to the show are $10 for youth and $20 for adults. So, if you are an actor paying full price for 3 classes, 1 show and 10 tickets to the show, your family’s contribution would be about $4,000. Though it doesn’t say that their applications are need blind, they may be. So, if you qualify for a scholarship then only your friends and family are funding the program through ticket sales.
Usually at the bottom of the webpage there is a list of granting foundations, sponsors and donors for a specific program. I don’t see any here so maybe this summer program runs on the money it takes in from tuition. That set was constructed for this production specifically, PlayMakers never did Bright Star before, so it wasn’t sitting in stock. My guess is that the tuition money probably funds the materials for the set.
The most recent production, The Drowsy Chaperone, had two directors. Maybe they are independent contractors and paid a fee and the rest of the money would be in the general labor pot for all of the theater’s full-time professionals. PlayMakersRep is the professional theater in residence at UNC Chapel Hill. When I designed a show there they had a hopping costume shop. There was a costume shop manager who taught classes, draped, sewed and managed. She had an assistant costume shop manager who just managed. There was a graduate design student that they assigned to assist me, a few other graduate students and a small army of undergraduates. I couldn’t tell from the website whether the graduate students get paid for their hours in the shop, nor what the work-study hourly rate is. Glassdoor says it is somewhere between $14 and $22/hour, and that the federal government picks up the tab on 75% of the work-study bill. Many of the undergraduates were working without pay as a “production credit” for their theater major.
So, the real monetary value of that production is hard to calculate, given the quantity of salaried institutional labor, below-market-rate, government-subsidized and free labor. It is probably a typical regional theater big cast musical costing about $2,000,000.
The resources of a large, very well endowed state university attached to a nationally respected large professional theater are hard to match in any scenario. Let alone for a high school program.
…but if you are willing to give up that set, I think you can have a show that looks that good for $1,000 + whatever free labor you have at hand…
Let me know and I will send you a script. And then you can watch the concert version that Steve Martin and the original Broadcast did on youtube. Tell me which you like better.